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Detained poet Ahnaf Jazeem held under PTA released on bail

Ahnaf Jazeem, a Muslim teacher and poet who was arrested on 16 May 2020 under the provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) was released on bail today (15).

Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka (JDS) stated that the Puttalam High Court granted bail to Jazeem after he was held for 19 months in detention for publishing a Tamil language poetry anthology.

Titled “Navarasam” authorities alleged that the anthology promoted an “extremist” ideology. However, renowned Tamil language Prof. Macbool Ali Mohammed Nuhman has been quoted as stating that “there are several poems against extremism, violence, and war in this collection”.

Earlier, Jazeem’s attorney Sanjaya Wilson Jayasekera stated that the State Counsel appearing for the Attorney General (AG) informed the Court that the AG has filed an indictment against Jazeem in the Puttalam High Court and the case will be taken up on 15 November. 

It was also informed that indictment has been framed against Ahnaf under Section 2(1)(h) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).

In May this year, Jayasekera stated in a letter to the Inspector General of Police (IGP) that there was continuing ill-treatment of Jazeem by officers of the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID), which is discriminatory.

“My client has been underfed and regularly improperly fed by TID officers, where he is not even provided with his morning cup of tea or evening snacks, while other detainees are provided with the same. This treatment is targeted and meted out only to my client, in a discriminatory manner. My client’s family reasonably suspects that this ill-treatment is intended to further intimidate, mentally harass, weaken, and force my client to give self-incriminating statements to the TID,” the letter stated.

Also in May this year, 13 organisations, both international and within Sri Lanka, issued a joint statement calling for the immediate release of poet Jazeem.

PEN International, Amnesty International, Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, The International Working Group on Sri Lanka, International Truth and Justice Project – Sri Lanka, Centre for Justice and Accountability, Australian Centre for International Justice, Article 19, Human Rights Watch, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, People for Equality and Relief in Sri Lanka, and Freemuse called for the immediate release of Jazeem.

It is also noteworthy that yesterday (14), P. Rathikaran, a Tamil resident of Muttur, Sampur area in the Eastern Province was released on bail by Trincomalee High Court after he was arrested in November 2020 and held over a year under PTA for sharing a Facebook post commemorating war victims.